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Finger to wind, McSally vague on Homeland Security funding

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Finger to wind, McSally vague on Homeland Security funding

  • McSally led a congressional junket along the border in January, including a short stop to speak with reporters just west of Naco.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comMcSally led a congressional junket along the border in January, including a short stop to speak with reporters just west of Naco.

Following the lead of Republican House leadership, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally is waiting on the Senate to act before saying yea or nay on a "clean" funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The agency's appropriated funding is set to run out at midnight Friday.

That doesn't mean McSally is mum. She took the opportunity Wednesday to pen a 500-word op-ed for USA Today, but avoiding saying whether she'd support funding for the agency that isn't tied to blocking President Barack Obama's recent executive actions on immigration.

Last month, McSally — in one of the "against it before I was for it" moves common in Congress — was one of 26 House Republicans who voted against an amendment targeting the administration's deferred action programs. But she then voted for a DHS appropriation bill that included the amendment stripping funding for Obama's executive action on immigration.

With Congress knotted over how to proceed — the GOP's right wing is willing to see Homeland Security shut down over the issue, while Democrats oppose any halt to the immigration programs — McSally appeared to signal Wednesday that she'd support separate votes:

Most Americans agree the president overreached with his executive actions on immigration, and, for once, all three branches of government actually seem to agree. Congress, the courts and even the president himself (22 times) say that he did not have the authority to take such actions.

Now that he has defied even his own logic, the president's actions should be reversed, but not by withholding funding from the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our country safe. The president overstepped his bounds by taking on the policy-making role of Congress, so the best action Congress can take is to do its job. That means securing our border and revamping our legal immigration system so it aligns with our economic needs.

U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake have said they oppose tying Homeland Security funding — which includes the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other border agencies — to an attempt to block Obama's immigration actions.

"The best way to solve the problem of the president's continued reckless overreach is not by throwing the men and women of DHS into limbo, but for Congress to do its job and pass real reforms to fix our broken immigration system," McSally wrote.

In her op-ed, McSally said she's spent "countless hours along our border speaking with ranchers and border residents." The local head of the National Border Patrol Council said last month that, even as the new congresswoman held a photo opp at a rustic corral (complete with dilapidated windmill) nearly within rock-chucking distance of the border fence, she won't return phone calls from the agents' union.

Questioned about that, McSally said she's "not dodging them. I'll meet with anyone; I'd be happy to."

McSally's doing a fine job of weaving a path on immigration issues, casting herself as a border security hawk more effectively than her predecessor did. Ron Barber won the endorsement of the BP union, but that was more because of his stance on on their labor issues than on being a hardliner. But where does McSally stand now, as even the GOP's leadership is split, with the Senate majority wanting to avoid an embarrassing shutdown, but with her House contingent — including Speaker John Boehner — either willing to run along the edge or unwilling to publicly avoid the right-wing lockstep?

She derided her colleagues for "playing games" over the issue, saying that "Congress needs to get to work and do its job. That means securing our border and fixing our broken immigration system."

Boehner won't say how he'll vote, with some hardliners suggesting his leadership of the House might be in jeopardy if he doesn't tie the two issues together.

While she says she wants to fund the agency, what McSally and her camp won't say is what bill(s) she would support. Would she cast her vote in favor of a funding bill that didn't include restrictions on Obama's programs? Or would she cast her lot with the right-wing acolytes who insist on shutting down the president, even if it means shutting down the entire department?

She's typing op-eds, but not talking specifics, and only time will tell.

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